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Baltimore Orioles 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Baltimore Orioles 2011 Draft Selections

Owasso HS (OK) RHP Dylan Bundy (3rd ranked draft prospect) is an elite prospect who, along with last year’s top pick shortstop Manny Machado, gives Baltimore one of baseball’s top pitcher/position player combinations. Bundy has long shown a devastating plus fastball/plus curveball pairing and outstanding top to bottom command, but the progress made with his above-average (at times) changeup (usable as a show-me pitch at the start of the season) and plus cutter (formerly an average slider) is what really stands out for me. The biggest (only?) questions with the former Oklahoma prep star stem from his lack of size, but, as I’ve mentioned here more times than I can count, I don’t give a hoot about size. This is especially true when a “short” (hey, I’m 5’8”…size is relative, you know?) righthander has none of the issues short righthanders supposedly suffer from: his mechanics are consistent, he throws strikes like a pitching machine, he holds his velocity deep into starts, he has plenty of arm strength, and his injury history is clean. So, basically, he’s not 6’5”. Everything else about him indicates greatness ahead. Unfortunately for Baltimore, there isn’t much in the way of potential greatness to be found after their first pick. That’s not to say there are some solid prospects sprinkled throughout, but rather an admission that Baltimore went for high floors over high ceilings this year.

RHP Dylan Bundy (Owasso HS, Oklahoma): 94-95 sitting velocity, 96-97 peak; good to plus 77-82 CB; CU with average upside at start of spring, may have surpassed that already; 85-87 SL that might have been the cutter; really like the FB/CB combo; smooth mechanics; plus 86-89 cutter; Dylan Covey comp?; extreme strike thrower, great control; now sitting 92-96, 97 peak; holds velocity late; 6-1, 205

Sometimes I like high floor picks. Vanderbilt 3B Jason Esposito (55th ranked draft prospect) and his potential plus defense is a nice example of a high floor selection working for me. A floor of a defense-first utility player – he’s already shown he can hold his own up the middle in a pinch – isn’t a terrible investment for a team with so many young arms, some who could use the confidence boost a strong infield defense would provide, in the pipeline.

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it. If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.

Sometimes I don’t like high floor picks. East Carolina RHP Mike Wright and Arizona RHP Kyle Simon are both considered relatively safe bets to pitch in the big leagues someday, but I’m not so sure on either. I didn’t profile either before the draft because neither cracked my list of top 125 college pitching prospects. Then, lo and behold, Baltimore takes them both within the first 125 picks of the entire draft. I don’t think that makes my pre-draft ranking wrong, nor do I think it makes Baltimore stupid for taking their guys where they did; just differing opinions, that’s all. I do give credit to Baltimore for identifying the type of pitcher they wanted: Simon and Wright are two very, very similar pitching prospects, as you can see from my previously unpublished pre-draft notes on each below.

There isn’t a plus pitch between the two strapping young righties, but both young men have a lot of guts and are unafraid to pitch inside or challenge hitters when necessary. I prefer Wright’s four-seamer, slider and changeup. Simon gets the edge on his sinker, control, and delivery. Neither guy looks like much more than a potential middle reliever to me. Both Wright and Simon have made good use of their time in pro ball by already advancing to Baltimore’s Low A affiliate.

East Carolina JR RHP Mike Wright (2011): 90-92 FB, touching 93 with lots of sink; good but inconsistent SL; average at best CU; shows CB; delivery a concern; 6-5, 195 pounds; (6.93 K/9 – 2.61 BB/9 – 3.73 FIP – 100 IP)

Arizona JR RHP Kyle Simon (2011): 89-91 FB with plus sink, 92-93 peak; good splitter that works well off fastball; inconsistent SL with some promise; very good control; 6-5, 220 pounds; (6.28 K/9 – 0.77 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 129 IP)

Baltimore rounded out their top ten with six prospects I like. Middle Georgia JC LHP Matt Taylor brings good velocity from the left side and enough in the way of secondary offerings to profile as a potential back of the rotation arm. Ahead of him for me is Central Michigan LHP Trent Howard, a prospect who had only the following blurb in my notes: “plus-plus command of four otherwise unremarkable pitches.” Considering my love of lefties with the ability to put the ball wherever they want, I think I may have shortchanged him in my pre-draft rankings.

The two college righties selected in back-to-back rounds that have received the most ink are the 3rd/4th round duo of Wright and Simon, but I prefer the 9th/10th round coupling of Mississippi State RHP Devin Jones and Virginia RHP Tyler Wilson (219th ranked draft prospect). I’ve written a good bit about both guys over the past two seasons, so I’ll let past me take it away for a bit:

He [Jones] strikes me as a borderline starting candidate in pro ball at this point. Like many young pitchers, it’ll be the development of an effective changeup that makes or breaks him as a high round prospect or not. I really like his present mix (low-90s four-seam, upper-80s two-seam with great sink, and a mid- to upper-80s slider with plus upside) and he has the frame pro teams like to see in a starter (6’3″, 180). I’m a bit biased in my appreciation for Jones, as I’ve always liked the classically built sinker/slider specialists. I like it even more when these classic sinker/slider guys go all out and embrace who they are, so, if I may, a quick suggestion for Jones: ditch whatever version of the change you are currently working on and go with a splitter instead. 

Mississippi State JR RHP Devin Jones: low-90s FB, peaking at 93; 87-88 two-seamer with great sink; 82-84 SL could be plus pitch; CU is work in progress; breaking stuff hasn’t quite developed as hoped, but still peaks 94-95 with FB; 6-4, 180 pounds

Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson: Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (88-90 fastball, good sinking 80-82 change, average low-80s slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. Fastball plays up in short bursts (94 peak). 6-2, 190

Not much has changed since the time of those pieces: Jones is a better version of the sinker/slider arms taken a few rounds ahead of him, and Wilson’s versatility (stuff is good enough to start, but plays up nicely in relief) continues to make him a favorite.

Farragut HS (TN) 3B Nicky Delmonico (94th ranked draft prospect) was considered a difficult sign heading into the draft and questions about his signability pushed him down the board. I like his bat a lot more as a catcher than as a third baseman, and something about him rubs me the wrong way (though no real fault of his own…it’s just an instinctual thing, I guess), but there’s some power there.

Delmonico is another player who could realistically sneak into the first round who I’m not quite as high on as others. He’ll get the last laugh on draft day, so I don’t feel too bad breaking him down now. In Delmonico, I don’t see a standout tool. His arm works alright and there is some power upside, but there is no one part of his game that makes you stand up and take notice. In his defense, well, I like his defense. So many had written him off as a catcher, but in my brief looks and the scouting reports I’ve read, I don’t see anything that makes me think he’ll have to move to first anytime soon.

It was pretty considerate for Baltimore to draft both Arizona State OF John Ruettiger (169th ranked draft prospect) and TCU OF Jason Coats (Round 12 and my 114th ranked draft prospect) considering the two college outfielders were featured in a “Mystery Player” piece I did in early March. Not much has changed on either guy since then. The signed Ruettiger is a contact oriented leadoff type with a chance to stick in center professionally. The unsigned Coats has more thump and a quicker bat, but limited athleticism will keep him in a corner at the next level. I wrote a good bit on both players, so bear with me here. First, on Ruettiger:

[plus athlete; big hit tool; line drive machine; gap power at best; leadoff man profile; good patience; average to plus speed; good defender; iffy arm, more accurate than powerful; strong experience with wood; love the way he plays within himself; great athlete, great body; 6-2, 175 pounds]

Half Glass Full: Capable center fielder and irritating (to the opposition, naturally) leadoff man with double digit home run pop

Half Glass Empty: Modest power upside fails to manifest professionally; as a result, overall hit tool and plate discipline suffer against professional pitching

And now on Coats:

[plus athlete; very strong; special bat speed; decent to average speed; average arm; plus raw power; corner outfielder with good range; pitch recognition could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds]

Half Glass Full: Pitch recognition and overall approach at plate improves to the point his plus power allows him blossom as an above-average everyday corner outfielder

Half Glass Empty: Awesome power goes to waste as 4A slugger due to Jeff Francoeur-level plate discipline

Washington State OF Derek Jones (Round 13) is a similar, if slightly watered down, prospect to Coats. He’s strong (like Coats), a probable left fielder in the pros (like Coats), and has power to spare (like Coats. He also didn’t sign (like Coats!).

Washington State JR OF Derek Jones (2011): very strong, good speed, strong arm, best future tool is power; great athlete; holes in swing; stuck in LF; 6-1, 205 pounds

Illinois C Adam Davis (Round 11) can really catch. He won’t hit enough to warrant consideration for an everyday job, but catchers who can catch quickly become favorites within minor league coaching circles. South Carolina OF Adam Matthews (Round 23) will return to South Carolina next year with the inside track on the starting job in center field left vacant by Jackie Bradley Jr. TCU 2B Jerome Pena (Round 38) has decent pop for a middle infielder, but a lack of contact will be a problem.

Illinois JR C Adam Davis (2011): plus arm; very quick release; above-average defender; line-drive swing; 6-0, 205 pounds

South Carolina JR OF Adam Matthews (2011): plus speed; great athlete; good defender

As a speed guy first and foremost, Matthews’s battles with hamstring injuries all season long were a shame to see. 

Temple JC (TX) RHP Mark Blackmar (Round 16) has the chance for three average or better pitches, so there is some hope that he could make it as a starter in pro ball. I view him more as a fastball/slider relief option, but to each his own. Ten rounds later Baltimore took a chance on Mesquite HS (AZ) RHP Zach Davies (Round 26), much to my delight. Davies has that short righthander who can spot four pitches and knows when to use them thing going for him. The Orioles then went shopping right in their backyard as they nabbed Maryland RHP Sander Beck (Round 33). Beck was number one hundred on my list of 2011 college pitchers and will head back to College Park to improve that ranking in 2012. If he can find a way to make his fastball dance just a little bit more (cut it, sink it, float it, whatever) while also drastically improving his control, then he’s a legit prospect. It also wouldn’t hurt if he maintains the gains made improving his secondary offerings, a spike curve and straight change.

RHP Zach Davies (Mesquite HS, Arizona): 90 FB; CB; SL; CU; good athlete; 6-0, 170

Maryland JR RHP Sander Beck: straight 88-92 FB with good command; improving spike CB that I really like; solid straight CU; SL; control an issue; 6-3, 200 pounds

Wetumpka HS (AL) 3B Brad Roney (Round 18) has a scouting profile that reads a lot like 2011 third round pick BA Vollmuth. I’m not just saying that because he just so happens to be off to Southern Mississippi to replace Vollmuth on the left side of the infield either. Also unsigned is Clovis North HS (CA) SS Chris Mariscal (Round 41). Mariscal has gotten a lot of hype as a potential 2014 first rounder, but the concerns about his power upside are grounded in truth. I realize not every player has to be a power hitter, but the threat of an extra base hit goes a long way in how pitchers approach a given hitter. I’ll hedge my bets and say I think he’ll be a top five round prospect after three years at Fresno State.

Broken record alert: Mariscal has really good defensive tools at short, a plus arm, above-average speed, a solid hit tool, and not a whole lot of power. In other words, he is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of a non-first round high school shortstop prospect. Sorting out these players is something I do for fun here in this low-stakes couple thousands hits a day website; I can’t imagine how difficult it is to do it with literally millions of dollars of future player value at stake.

Last but not least, Virginia Tech RHP Ronnie Shaban (Round 49) deserves a mention as a solid college infielder drafted with the intention of moving him to the mound. He’ll be back at Virginia Tech for his senior season.

Virginia Tech JR SS Ronnie Shaban: strong arm; good pop; good defensive tools; average runner; 6-1, 195 pounds

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Maryland Terrapins

1. Even for a guy like me who doesn’t quite know what’s up with college baseball, it’s plain to see the talent level at Maryland is on the rise. Former Vanderbilt assistant Erik Bakich has done an incredible job of recruiting since getting hired in 2009. Would you believe me if I told you there could be up to fifteen Terrapins taken in this June’s draft? That’s obviously a perfect world projection where no player gets hurt, stalls in his development, or just plain falls flat on his fast, but the downside (say, a half dozen?) is still a pretty impressive draft output for a school to produce. I’m happy for Maryland, yes, but I’m a little peeved at the timing. See, it wasn’t too long ago that I had all sorts of nice connections down in and around Washington DC. Now that the Maryland program has finally grown into something worth seeing, I’ve lost all but the most tenuous of holds on my one strong Beltway hookup. What a bummer. Timing is everything, I guess.

2. I’m really excited to see what JR 3B Tomo Delp does against ACC pitching this spring. Almost all of the fall buzz about Bryce Harper’s CSN teammate has been positive, especially on the offensive side of the coin. I’m confident his bat will open some eyes, so I’ll be focusing on his progress with the glove. Good things have also been said about JR OF Korey Wacker, a true plus-plus speed guy with good range and a strong arm for centerfield. Yet another transfer who could make an instant draft impact is JR 2B Ryan Holland. He’s similar to Delp in that his bat is his calling card, but it has also been said that Holland’s defense has been more than adequate at second. As an added bonus, he also has experience holding it down at third base and shortstop. The most highly regarded returning Terrapins prospect is JR SS Alfredo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a really good defender who will definitely stick at short as a pro. He made strides with the bat last spring, but is still almost exclusively a singles hitter at this point. Needless to say, great defense or not, I’m not as high on him as I know some are. JR OF Brandon Padula also could get a shot with a big spring, but he strikes me more as a good college player without a standout tool than a legitimate pro prospect. A lot can change between now and June, however.

3. Five position players mentioned so far, yet not a word on JR OF Matt Marquis. This past summer, a summer forever to be known to many prospect watchers as “The Summer of Trout,” I had a conversation with a friend well connected in the business who told me, and I know he won’t mind me quoting him here, “Matt Marquis was Mike Trout before Mike Trout was Mike Trout.” Pretty cool statement if you ask me. Marquis was a highly sought after high school prospect from New Jersey. He had speed, power to all fields, a strong arm, and an even stronger commitment to a great baseball school in Vanderbilt. A common comparison for each player, as funny as it seems with the benefit of hindsight, was Aaron Rowand. Getting the Trout vibe yet? Fast forward to today. Trout has completely blown up as a professional while Marquis has lagged behind. The second-year Maryland outfielder still offers up that tantalizing blend of above-average speed and raw power, but the production, from Nashville to College Park, has never matched the hype. Teams still hold out hope that he’ll put it all together as an above-average corner outfielder. Count me in as a believer.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

Delp, Marquis, and Rodriguez are the three surest Maryland position players to be drafted, I think. They are followed by a pair of 50/50 shots in Padula and Holland. Wacker is probably a guy I’ve overrating based on strong tools – reminds me of last winter’s infatuation with Ridge Carpenter – so I’d probably put his odds as the longest to get drafted this year.

SR RHP Brett Harman deserves to be at or near the top of any team’s list of top senior signs. His strong three pitch mix features an upper-80s fastball with sink and a changeup that flashes plus, but it is above-average slider that makes everything else work. He reminds me of a favorite undervalued but effective big leaguer, newly signed Mariner Justin Miller SR LHP Eric Potter should also receive some looks as a mid- to late-round senior sign. His size and stuff remind me a little of his teammate on last year’s squad, Adam Kolarek. Kolarek, an eleventh round pick of the Mets in 2010, was drafted despite some control issues because of his above-average lefty velocity (though he generally sits upper-80s, I’ve personally seen him top out at 93 and I have read he’s been as high as 94) and an above-average mid-80s slider. Potter throws a curve instead of a slider, but the similarities in overall quality of stuff are there if you squint really hard. JR RHP Chuck Ghysels will probably get pigeonholed as a reliever because of his size (5-11, 200), but his three-pitch mix is definitely good enough to get college hitters out multiple times through a lineup. JR RHP Sander Beck throws a knuckle curveball, so you know he’s awesome. I think if your first name is Sander and you throw a knuckle curve, then you should be allowed to skip the minors and go straight to the big leagues. In all seriousness, Beck could be Maryland’s best 2011 draft prospect, even though I have my doubts about his way too hittable straight moving fastball. We’ll see. That’s four interesting pitchers to watch already and I haven’t even mentioned JR RHP Creighton Hoke (two average at worst pitchers already with his low-90s FB and SL) and JR RHP David Carroll (by rule, all 6-8, 235 pound pitchers deserve some love in this space). JR RHP Michael Boyden reminds me of the pitching version of JR OF Brandon Padula, steady yet unspectacular. A pair of senior RHPs Matt Quinn (whoa, I was looking at old notes the other day and realized that I saw him pitch when he was in high school…I had forgotten all about it) and Blair Delean could both sneak into the last few rounds with strong 2010 seasons, though I’d bet on both guys being on the outside looking in come June.

By my count that makes Harman, Beck, Ghysels, Potter, Hoke, Carroll, Delp, Marquis, Rodriguez, and Holland as good bets or better to be drafted with Padula, Wacker, and Boyden as maybes. Very strong group.